Do you ever worry about tempting fate when you write fiction?
That if you write about x, about something nasty happening, maybe something especially nasty, you might be putting an idea or vibration out into the universe and so that something nasty will actually come to be?
Sounds crazy, I know, but I worry!
Trouble is, there’s not a whole lot of interesting things to write about if you cut out anything negative or unpleasant! Right at the beginning of my MFA I found I had to get over my superstitious fear if I was ever going to write fiction.
“What’s the worst that could happen to your character?” my writing group colleagues urge enthusiastically. “What’s even worse?”
I wrote the first draft of my story ‘Push to Shove’ at Kenyon Summer Writers’ Workshop in response to a prompt from Nancy Zafris. At Kenyon you have to write at speed and accept the story you find. Especially if you want to get a couple of hours of sleep!
Argh, darn, I thought as I realized what had happened in my story: a death, the result of a freak accident.
Argh! Must I really put it in? I hedge a little. I try to rework the story to avoid this but – no freak accident, no story.
Nothing else for it. I close my eyes and type quickly. I know exactly what the freak accident was. Falling masonry.
There, was that really so painful?
When I come back from holiday, the story is published online at Bird’s Thumb.
In the neighborhood paper there is news of a chimney that has fallen, narrowly missing a woman and her dog. A cornice too. Fortunately no-one was on the sidewalk at the time as it was a large piece.
Out I go onto the balcony to organize my pots of morning glory seedlings.
Where did all these bits of concrete and mortar come from? I look up and see a hole in the bricks, right below the roof flashing. I call the mortar expert.
“Look at that,” I say, pointing at the hole.
“Hm,” says the expert.
“No, there, under the flashing,” I say, seeing him looking in the wrong direction.
“I’m looking at that,” he says, pointing.
And right above us is the chimney, concrete rim cracked, clearly shifted out of position. If it came down while I was sitting out there enjoying my cup of tea….
Advice to all: before writing, check your chimney!
(Is it really a good idea to publish this post? Or am I tempting….?)